Knowing when to pay up for the branded item

Buy Generic? Or Not?

by Andrea Woroch

Deciding what products to buy generic and what items to purchase name brand is a quandary we've all faced at some point. When presented with two similar products, some consumers assume the pricier of the two is of higher quality. However, most of us know that's not always the case. And yet, we've all been burned by purchasing a generic product, only to find out it's flimsy or tasteless.

While it's ultimately up to the consumer to decide which brand of product suits his or her needs, there are a few items that are generally best purchased as generic or name brand. Consider the following recommendations on when to save and when to splurge on everyday essentials.

Generics to Buy

Over-the-Counter Medication - Crimping on your health feels foolish, which is why you might pay a premium on over-the-counter (OTC) medications. However, the FDA requires that generic drugs work as quickly and effectively as the brand-name medications on which their formula is based. In fact, brand-name companies manufacture around 50 percent of the generic drugs, according to the FDA. You can save anywhere from 30 to 50 percent by avoiding brand name OTC medication.

Sunscreen - You don't have to splurge on brand-name sunscreen to stay protected. Look for the important ingredients like "avobenzone," which protects against skin-burning UVB and cancer-causing UVA rays. Ultimately, you want a sunblock that promises "Broad-Spectrum UVA and UVB Protection." And you can pass on pricey bottles that boast a super-high SPF since there's no evidence proving lotions above 50 offer additional protection, according to Consumer Reports.

Cereal - Consumers who purchase name-brand cereals spend an average of 40-percent more than those who opt for generic versions. Often times, generic cereals are made by the same manufacturer as the name brand, but without flashy labels. The premium prices of brand-name cereal is attributed to packaging and advertising. Compare ingredients side by side to ensure quality and same great taste.

Name Brands to Buy

Toilet Paper - We can all agree that durability in paper products like toilet paper is paramount. Generic brands usually have fewer fibers, which means less absorbency. They'll cost less than brand names, but you'll end up using more of the cheaper towels or toilet paper.

Savings Tip: You can often save more on toilet paper by purchasing them with coupons from grocery stores, as opposed to buying them in bulk. Look for coupons from Target and other stores on and stock up during sale time.

Condiments - This category is subject to personal preference, but the general consensus is that generic condiments don't add up to the name brands in taste tests. Heinz Ketchup and A1 Steak Sauce are considered by most as tastier than any generic brand out there.

Savings Tip: Summer is a great time to stock up on condiments since BBQ season drives sales and discounts on ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and other essentials.

Trash bags - Generic garbage bags are thinner and don't have the capacity of name-brand bags. When shopping for this kitchen staple, look for stretchy bags made with patented materials and opt for industrial-strength bags over ones marketed "for the home."

Savings Tip: You can save over 30 percent by purchasing trash bags in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco or Sam's Club.

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

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